Eat your heart out, Beyonce. While those who watched the Super Bowl continue to argue over the hidden meanings – Illuminati or otherwise – of Beyonce’s Super Bowl halftime show (along with some band and that other guy) featuring a group of dancers performing in “Formation,” over 700 million viewers watched the Spring Festival Gala which marked the start of the Year of the Monkey with 540 robots dancing in unison while 26 drones performed in formation overhead.
China Central Television’s annual Spring Festival Gala is billed as the most watched TV program in the world (six times as many viewers as the Super Bowl). The 4-and-a-half hour variety show featured 39 events ranging from singers to comedians to kung fu demonstrations. However, the highlight of the show was the robots.
As vocalist Sun Nan sang about China being a world leader, 540 robots proved it (at least in the field of dancing robots) by moving together to the beat of the music. Each robot is 16.5 inches tall and weighs 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds). Li Chao, the person in charge of the robotic performance, gave a hint as to how it was accomplished.
Each robot consists of 16 steering engines which are developed by our researchers independently. These steering engines can imitate the motions of human joints, so the robots can move so agilely.
According to a translation of the show’s description in the People’s Daily Online, there were a number of challenges in putting on this potentially record-setting (it’s been submitted to the Guinness Book of World records) performance. The original plan called for 240 robots but Li Chao upped the number to 540 at the last minute. This forced the robots to be 60 cm rather than one meter apart and required a boost in the control signals to compensate for distance and interference. Since the distance between the robots was so small, adjustments were made to their centers of gravity and range of motion to avoid a domino effect and a mess of bots.
The end of the performance included a coordinated flyover by 26 drones dropping glitter on the robots. That’s 540 robots shaking their metallic booties and doing handstands in a synchronized formation without a single mistake. The Monkey must be proud.
Is it too early to book them for Super Bowl LI?